AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
FEW PEOPLE WOULD deny that the focus at Drupa was on output technology, not on the color systems that have been the centerpiece of so many shows in the last decade. But there were some interesting developments in the color field, even if they were more like undercurrents than themes.
As we suggest in the introduction to the color section of our Drupa report, one of those undercurrents is that the suppliers of high-end systems seem to agree, perhaps reluctantly, that their market is shrinking and they need to do something about it. However, they are taking different approaches, as this section will illustrate.
Scitex is attacking the problem with a full, frontal attack, launching new input and output products, adding server, workflow and multimedia products, while still upgrading its fading Whisper workstations. Screen, similarly, has taken an expansive view, adding peripherals while upgrading its TaigaSpace system. Updates on both of their product developments appear in this section.
Crosfield has been more open in switching its allegiance, although it still talks about porting its color image-manipulation software to a standard platform for the long haul. Linotype-Hell, has done well with its DaVinci workstation, but it is still a second-generation proprietary workstation, and Linotype-Hell, too, has been putting a lot of efforts into scanners and imagers. We summarize both of their situations here.
You'll notice that some of the vendors usually appearing under color systems-e.g., Dalim and Xyvision Contex-aren't here at all, having been included in the section on workflow and data management, where they put their latest development efforts. That workflow area has produced our second undercurrent-the need to improve the management of what we produce.
Contenders clash. Wright Technologies presents a slightly different scenario: a vendor with a standard-platform workstation that is moving down-market into the area being defended by Photoshop. And that is our third undercurrent: the looming challenges to Photoshop. Can anyone eat away at the massive market lead Photoshop has built up?
Drupa was the scene of Round Two of the battle between Wright Design and Quark Xposure for ascendancy to the position of chief challenger to Photoshop. Quark had won the first round at the Seybold Seminars in Boston, largely because Wright wasn't quite ready for the exposure. But it fared better at Drupa. Both exhibit strong capabilities and both are priced to compete with Photoshop.
Quark has a big edge in its mass-market distribution channels and its huge base of Xpress users. Wright is aligned with Pitman, a powerhouse among graphic arts dealers, but at $799 for Wright Design, it will take more than the traditional level of graphic arts sales to make the product a success. (Because Xposure is marketed through retail channels, we covered its Drupa exhibition in The Seybold Report on Desktop Publishing, Vol. 9, No. 11.)
The rest of the story. Besides our coverage of those developments, this section provides a good update on the state of systems for color-image manipulation, from low-cost add-ons and plug-ins to full-blown, heavy-duty hardware running sophisticated software:
Artwork Systems' ability to handle transparency more effectively than can currently be done with PostScript, plus its trapping module.
Barco's unveiling of the BG-2500 workstation, its two-way link to Macintoshes, the "practically indispensable" PS-Fix utility, an aid to color proofing, an impressive imposition program and step-and-repeat software for packaging.
An interesting marketing test project demonstrated by Dai Nippon Printing of Japan.
A suite of Macintosh plug-ins from Human Software.
The entries of DuPont and Linotype-Hell into packaging.
The latest upgrades to Quantel's Printbox and Paintbox systems.
A product from Visu Technologies that looks like Scitex on a Macintosh-but isn't for sale.
In our Desktop Publishing report. A few items at the show were targeted at the market traditionally served by our sister publication, The Seybold Report on Desktop Publishing, so we included them in our last issue (see Vol. 9, No. 11). They include detailed reports on the following items:
Adequate Solutions has ported the versatile Calamus software package from the Atari platform to the Mac and NT. It was shown on the Mac in the Apple booth. Its key characteristic is its use of its own CDK command language for display and output, rather than PostScript or QuickDraw. The advantage is internal consistency, which helps in supporting a WYSIWYG display and in creating overlapping transparent objects, which has been a real problem for PostScript systems.
Adequate Systems GmbH, Brauereistrae 2, D-67549 Worms, Germany; phone (49) 6241-955065, fax (49) 6241-955066.
Mirage Desktop Repro Systems of the UK showed an image modification and layout application that runs on the Macintosh or under 32-bit versions of Windows, but will be ported to the Power Mac and the DEC Alpha. Called Desktop Repro Tools, it enables creating montages of any number of TIFF images within an A0-size area. It operates on large files very quickly. Creation of vignettes and masks hasn't been added to the system yet. Text support is minimal.
Mirage Desktop Repro Systems, 2 Derby Terrace, Derby Road, Nottingham, NG7 1ND, UK; phone (44) 115-953-2001, fax (44) 115-947-0582. CompuServe: 100315,3564
OneVision of Germany exhibited an application suite that integrates photo retouching (Cranach), vector graphics (Manet) and text composition (Lanston) modules into a complete text- and image-processing system. It runs under NextStep, which the company deemphasizes while doing a demonstration, except where it proves to be advantageous, such as in its use of Display PostScript for screen viewing. Overall, the system is capable, although the text program needs some enhancing. For example, it doesn't support dropped initial capitals or creation of fractions.
Quark demonstrated Xposure, its candidate to compete with Photoshop in the mainstream photo-manipulation market. We were impressed by it at the Seybold Seminars in Boston and are even more so now. Developed by JVC of Japan, it uses the color-separation engine of PixelCraft's Color Access. One key is its treatment of all elements and actions as objects that can be stored and edited. Another is its use of "lenses" to create special effects such as embossing, skewing, perspective, crystallization, erasure, fill, posterization, etc. Masking tools are under development.
Artwork transparency feature shines
Artwork Systems, the Belgian developer of Mac and Power Mac applications, appears to be going for broke with version 3 of its ArtPro software. If it can do in the field what the Drupa demonstrations showed, we should be in for an exciting time. In fact, we would like to see Artwork repackage the software components to address markets besides packaging and label production-where it already has 400 customers.
The key to our optimism is one feature: the ability to handle transparency of elements within PostScript. Artwork Systems demonstrated the ability to display and output linework through the transparent portion of a contone image on top of it. The software also supports soft masking-smoothing the edges between linework and contone elements. Rounding out the new parts of version 3 are contone editing (retouching and color correction) and special rasterization software for gravure engraving devices that applies "special techniques" to text and linework to improve their quality.
Version 3 is still under development, but other vendors already are lining up to work with Artwork: Linotype-Hell for its PacPilot product, Think for its ThinkPro, and Ohio Electronic Engravers, DuPont and Agfa for various other projects. The only significant drawback we see to ArtPro is that it is expensive. However, we hope it will be unbundled or the company will find a way to make the pricing more attractive to large markets. In anticipation of a development like that, we suggest everyone take a look.
Finishing station. Positioning itself as a finishing workstation for packaging-similar to the roles currently occupied by the Barco, Dalim and Scitex Impak workstations-this set of Mac applications currently has three parts: the main ArtPro application ($15,000), a batch and interactive trapping program called PowerTrapper ($5,000) and a step-and-repeat module called PowerStepper ($5,000).
The main application-ArtPro-supports both linework and continuous-tone images. Linework is vectorized from TIFF (including CCITT- and LZW-compressed TIFF) and Handshake LW files, and is maintained in either vector or spline format. In doing so, Artwork Systems claims both to run five to ten times faster than Adobe Streamline and to be more accurate.
The demonstration we saw, from the brochure handed out at the show, did a nice job, adding a linework cleanup function seen often on high-end systems. This cleanup function takes elements that are smaller than a specified size and removes specks or artifacts.
CAD input is supported (in HPGL, CFF2, Illustrator or PostScript formats), as is process color and up to 64 spot colors, all of which can be trapped. Bar codes can be generated in the standard formats. Other features include remapping separations to Pantone inks, warping objects for printing on cups or similar materials, shrinking and expanding, coloring linework …